Years prior to the WHO report, Guyana’s Ministry of Health developed strategies on its own to reduce the number of people who take their own lives. In 2010, for instance, the government began to train priests, teachers, and police officers to help identify people at risk of killing themselves in Berbice, a farmland area along a river shared with Suriname designated as the “suicide belt. “Notable efforts were also made by Region 3 to dilute suicide in the area. Region Three was among two other regions with the largest prevalence of suicide with 113.6 per 100,000 population.
As a result, plans to spread suicide prevention awareness by placing posters at strategic points within the region to promote awareness against committing suicide were made. Plans were also made to coordinate with the Department of Education and youth groups to hold a number of seminars and workshops and role plays to bring out how suicide can be prevented. The Region Three REO added that the Administration hoped to create a partnership with the parents via the Parent Teacher Conference (PTA) to assist in addressing their children’s behaviour, and how to address suicide. The Guyana Defence Force and the Florida National Guard (FNG) also joined efforts to address the issue of suicide in Guyana. Various aspects of the phenomenon were highlighted and discussed during a conference, which was held from February 28 to March 3, at the St. Francis Community Developers Conference Room, at Rose Hall Town, Corentyne, Region 6. In the region overall, the issue is gaining attention. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has recognised suicide as a major problem, and is focusing special effort on raising awareness and implementing changes in government policy and in public health services.
Between 2010 and 2013, PAHO launched region-wide initiatives to address treatment gaps in mental health, and has integrated mental health in its strategic plan for 2014 to 2019. These efforts have seen some success. The Media has also been flooded with suicide awareness advertisements and messages to enforce the importance of suicide prevention into the minds of Guyanese. In 2015, a Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud launched a ‘Suicide Helpline’ as another initiative under the Force’s Social Crime Prevention programme. The centre was equipped with suitably qualified and trained persons to answer phones, receive text messages and emails and other forms of communication through social platforms operated and manned by the inter-agency centre. The increase in workshops nationwide encouraged locals to look out for those in need of guidance and showed them how to do so.
This knowledge has notably strengthened the nation as majority is now aware of the importance of suicide prevention. One Charity Organization: The Guyana Foundation, has played an integral role in highlighting this phenomenon in Guyana where stigma surrounding mental health issues has long hindered efforts to alleviate them. Youngst-rs are taught practical skills at the Sunrise Center as it is believed that learning skills give young people a brighter outlook.
Free courses are also available to the public including Dress-making, tie-dye and yoga. Attendees also occasionally complete questionnaires assessing their emotional wellbeing.